jews for oh jesus

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, The Jerk Who Convinced The Jewish Standard To Ban Gay Couples

What to do when your newspaper becomes the story? Report on yourselves. That’s what the New Jersey Jewish Standard finds itself doing in the wake of its decision to publish a gay engagement announcement, then never do it again, then figure out whether it’ll ever do it again. Which means it’s also time to hear from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Orthodox conservative who made Justin Rosen and Avi Smolen into an opportunity to marginalize Jewish queers.

In a new editorial titled “Moving forward,” the 80-year-old paper’s publisher James Janoff asks for patience as he figures out whether he’s going to cave to extremist Orthodox concerns and keep the gays out of the paper, or whether the Jewish Standard will represent all parts of the Jewish community.

We have acknowledged that we listened too closely to one group rather than taking the pulse of the entire community; and we have agreed that we acted too quickly in dealing with the “firestorm” we were told we created in the Orthodox community. Some are questioning our commitment to Judaism, others our commitment to the Jewish people. Ironically, this kind of divisiveness is precisely what we have tried to avoid for 80 years in an effort to unify the community through our pages.

To ensure fairness, we have committed to engage in discussions and to chronicle the ongoing controversy in the paper. Indeed, this edition of the paper reflects that commitment. We ask for time to address this matter properly — to do the “due diligence” we should have done from the start — and we thank you in advance for helping us conduct rational and thoughtful discussions about an issue obviously important to so many people from so many parts of our one community.

But it’s not just an introspective editorial the Standard is running. The cover story of this week’s edition is one giant discussion of the paper’s missteps and its consideration to correct them. Which is good, because it has the names of the conservative Jewish leaders who have been total punks about all this.

Looking back at what has occurred over the past several weeks, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, religious leader of Cong. Ahavath Torah in Englewood and first vice president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, said, “The problem emerged when the Standard underestimated the importance and sensitivity of this issue to the Orthodox community.” Goldin telephoned the Standard following publication of the wedding announcement to “alert [the newspaper] to those sensitivities.” Janoff recalled that the rabbi said he had been in touch with Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, president of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County.

Following several calls, the Standard printed a statement saying it would not publish such announcements in the future. Rebecca Boroson, the Standard’s editor, characterized the conversations with Goldin — in which the editors, publisher, and associate publisher took part — as “intense.” “He repeatedly told us that the paper had caused pain in the Orthodox community,” she added, “and that we had ‘crossed a red line.’”

The backlash resulting from the Standard’s about-face goes beyond the current controversy, said Goldin. “The Orthodox community is involved in an ongoing struggle to determine how to live with the tension between two fundamental principles that have to guide our approach to the gay community,” Goldin said. On one hand, the movement seeks to “respect all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation,” recognizing in particular “the personal struggles of those who belong to the gay community and want to continue identifying as committed Jews.” On the other hand, the Orthodox movement must maintain “its allegiance to Torah law, which strongly prohibits same-sex unions.”

Goldin spoke of “the overwhelming animosity and resentment displayed toward the Orthodox community and rabbinate of Bergen County in particular” in the aftermath of the announcement. “Gross misrepresentations have been accepted as fact,” he said. “The fact is that the RCBC had no official response” to the incident. “To say that the group threatened organized activity is an outright lie.” He suggested as well that the issue of homosexuality “has become the civil rights issue of the era.” “We have to recognize that each of us has issues and red lines,” he said. “I sometimes feel that because the Orthodox position is not the automatically popular position in the society in which we find ourselves — it’s easier to argue for inclusiveness than for certain limits — in a knee-jerk fashion the Orthodox are judged in a negative way without giving credence to our right to hold our positions.”

The entire piece is worth a read, for it includes interviews with a whole slew of rabbis and community leaders — including many who believe the Standard should embrace LGBT Jews by continuing to run same-sex announcements. It’s also shows that just like gays, Jews cannot and should not be lumped into a single category of people.

There are many sects among them with varying degrees of acceptance, including those who are no better than Catholic or Muslim leaders turning scripture into an excuse to perpetuate bigotry. I’m pretty sure the man upstairs has a special sort of afterlife in mind for them, whether Jews believe in hell or not.

Jewish Standard’s Unorthodox Standards: No To Gays, Yes To Shellfish + Wool-Linen Clothing Ads?
Like All Discreet Homosexual Exchanges, Jewish Standard’s Rabbi Meeting Was Behind Closed Doors

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  • AdonisOfFire

    Them jews sure have a short memory, considering what they went through with Hitler I find rather hypocritical that they would behave like that with other “minorities”.

  • Dan

    Just a reminder before lumping all people in one pot. This year 2010 is the 10th anniversary of Israel banning discrimination in employment, goods & services, and public accommodations, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. Israel remains the only country in the region with such civil and human rights protection.

  • Dan


    Interesting. It seems no different than the USA. While the USA has a First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court has routinely ruled that the time, place, and manner of Free Speech and Expression (including Religious Speech and Expression) can be dictated by government (the reason, for instance, why the hateful anti-gay Phelps clan has to protest in areas designated by law for protests – e.g. along the sidewalk but not in the street blocking traffic – in other words, public safety).

  • Lukas P.

    If the Orthodox Rabbis wish to a
    stick to a strictly literal interpretation of the Torah, perhaps they also protest ads in the paper that include businesses open on the sabbath, restaurants which don’t keep Kosher kitchens, or interfaith marriage announcements.

    Otherwise these Orthodox leaders and their congregants seem to be cherry-picking what part of their holy book they care to enforce. That sure smells like big.otry to me.

  • Queer Supremacist

    A friend of mine, who is married to a Rabbi, recently explained to me the difference between the Jewish view of scripture and the Christian and Muslim view: Christians and Muslims see the text in black and white, but Jews see shades of gray. But nobody told Rabbi Goldin. Even these Orthodox Jews come off more like “we can’t support it” than “we absolutely refuse”, which is the fundamentalist Christian view.

    And I thought the Bible said “Be fruitful and multiply.” One out of two isn’t bad.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    @Dan: And Isreal is to be commended for banning discrimination. Unfortunately, it refuses to enforce these laws anywhere that Orthodox/Hasidic/Haredim persons object.

  • reform jew

    There’s a word in Yiddish for this sort of thing: a shande. It is written, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21), but this apparently means little to the rebbe. It is written, “Nations shall then go by your Light and kings by your radiant illumination” (Isaiah 60:2-3), yet this, too, seems to mean little to the rebbe. What kind of example are we, the Jewish people — a supposedly chosen people –, setting for the rest of the world by not only allowing the bigotry we see around us to continue unchallenged, but to perpetuate it ourselves? “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deut. 16:20), but where is the justice in this?

  • MickW

    Jews should know better than anyone not to discriminate against people.

    Shame on you!

  • Lukas P.

    My orthodox Jewish colleagues have been quite vocal about distancing themselves from the “ultra-orthodox” Jews, particularly some (all?) Hasidic Jews.
    I understand there are some sharp differences on how scripture is interpreted and adhered to.

    Perhaps some Queerty reader can explain the differences? I think this would help us understand the ‘players’ in this issue, and that Orthodox Jews might not be a monolithic group of people with identical views.


  • reform jew

    @Lukas P.:

    Hey Lukas — To my knowledge, the primary distinction between the ultra-orthodox (who can be pretty safely lumped with the Hasidim, in my opinion) and the modern orthodox is primarily in their willingness to assimilate. So while many modern orthodox may happily go into common professions such as law, medicine, or business, the ultra-orthodox primarily go into religious professions or professions that primarily serve the Jewish community. They tend to live in relatively self-sustaining communities.

    By contrast, modern orthodox, while strictly religiously observant, tend not to live in distinct and closed-off communities. They are also more likely to attend secular institutions of learning.

    As far as I’m aware, there is no fundamental, underlying theological disagreement, but I suspect that the cultural differences between them have led to divergent interpretations of Jewish law, the Talmud (Jewish Biblical interpretation), and the Torah itself.

  • Roxy the Killer

    @AdonisOfFire: Not this Hitler BS again. Please, do not hold Jews to a higher standard just because they were, and are, a persecuted minority (yes, we ARE a minority.) Jews are a diverse group of people, and like any group, they have individual identities, communal disputes and personal flaws.

    Nazis also persecuted gays, but not all gays were held to a higher standard.

    Plus, if you are going to recognize the diversity in the gay community, don’t deny it for Jews. Not all Jews and gays were persecuted by Nazis… we each have different histories. Aside from Nazism, many Jews faced pogroms and forced expulsions from Russia, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and other countries (some of these expulsions are on-going, like the one in Ethiopia.) The intolerance behind these expulsions also affects LGBTQIs, whose lives are directly affected by the religious extremism in their communities (see: Jihad of Love, a documentary about the coexistence of homosexuality with Islam. It features accounts of gay men in Egypt imprisoned for their “perversion,” and forced to flee the country.)

    Like almost all forms of oppression, antisemitism and homophobia are linked, since losing human rights affects us all. So please, stop generalizing.

    And in response to the article, which is awesome… the end falls short. What’s with the hell segment? It clashes with the rest of the article. To many Jews, there are scarier things than Hell… as our histories of persecution have revealed, people create their own “hell” on Earth.

  • AdonisOfFire

    @Roxy the Killer:

    And your point is? Plus you contradict yourself with seemingly opposite statements, first you say jews shouldn’t be held to a higher standard because they are persecuted…but then you go on and complain how you’ve been persecuted, yet you forget to mention how jews have also persecuted A LOT other minorities.

    Bitch take a seat.

  • Lukas P.

    @ Reform Jew (#11) :

    Thanks for the clear answer.
    The colleagues I spoke with consider themselves “Orthodox” but work in secular environments: university research, clinical medicine, etc.

    They stressed, in our conversation that the “ultraOrthodox” folks are a small minority, and do NOT — outside their own communities — play a significant rôle in contemporary Jewish thought, including within the Conservative branch of Judaism.

    Why is this important to know for Queerty readers? Because not all Conservative Jews interpret the Torah the same hyper-literal way, so we’d best not assume all Conserv.s hold the same opinions as Rabbi Golden.

  • Casey

    Orthodox judaism sounds nasty, vicious, stupid and bigotted.
    Just your typical religion really.


    @Lukas P.: Where the hell you been? Thought you gots kidnapped by an ex-Gay conversion group………. :p

  • Roxy the Killer

    @AdonisOfFire: Being persecuted does not mean Jews should be held to a higher standard. That was the main argument in my last post— gays and Jews should not be held to a higher standard just because of our history as persecuted minorities.

    However, unlike most forms of homophobia, Anti-Semitism all at once holds Jews to a “higher standard” and then crashes ALL Jews down as terrible human beings when a some of us fail to live up to it. How would you feel if everyone expected you to live up to a higher standard just because of your ethnic origin?

    That said, which minority did “Jews” persecute whose leaders weren’t already persecuting Jews? The on-going diaspora has made most of us constant-foreigners, and therefore, easy targets.

  • Roxy the Killer

    @Dan: And the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East. Huzzah :D!

  • Roxy the Killer

    @MickW: Gentiles should know better than to generalize about all Jews. Shame on YOU.

  • Mark

    An addendum to the comment above about the differences between Jewish groups/denominations — and a note about the phrase “conservative Jewish leaders” and “Orthodox conservative Rabbi Shmuel…”

    When speaking about Jews, the word Conservative can be confusing, because the main 3 denominations in the U.S. are Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism. Conservative Judaism does not mean conservative U.S. politics.

    It would perhaps be more accurate to write “Rabbi Goldin, a reactionary Orthodox leader, he should only grow like an onion with his head in the ground.”

    As opposed to, say, Rabbi Zalman Schachter, who is a progressive Orthodox (and Renewal) leader.

    May seem like splitting hairs here, but hey, if you start discussing Jews, you’re going to get into a Talmudic discussion. Just happens. ;-)

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